Pray Then Like This
Hymns on the Lord's Prayer
Author Richard Leach
Composer Carson Cooman
Released July 2002
Catalog no. 125-220 (paperback, 28 pp.)
Price $8.00 (U.S.)
Read the Introduction, Composer's Notes, and Notes on the Hymns
"Pray Then Like This is the latest of Richard Leach's hymn collections and is unique among them in that he has collaborated with a single composer for the entire collection and has focused on a single subject: The Lord's Prayer. Leach has divided the prayer into seven sections, but he has provided two hymns for two of the sections and what he calls bookends on either end. So, there are a total of eleven hymn settings. The opening hymn is based on the words of Jesus which introduce the prayer in Matthew (6:7-9), 'We Will Pray As Jesus Taught.' The first hymn from the prayer itself is 'How Far Away Is Heaven,' based, of course, on the opening phrase, 'Our Father, who art in Heaven.' This hymn introduces a second theme found in some of the hymns, the parable of the Prodigal Son. As is typical of Richard Leach's inspiring work, all of the hymns here are rich in scriptural reference and poetic metaphor far beyond the chosen subject of the Lord's Prayer. The Topical Index and Scripture Index for the collection (11 hymns) consume a full page.
It is interesting to compare the phrases with multiple settings: numbers 5 and 6, 'And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors'; and numbers 9 and 10, 'For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever.' Here we find the poet, inspired by the same text, writing two very different poems. 'The Hand that Closes Round a Stone' (no. 5) contrasts the sinner's clenched-fist sin with the open-handed love of a forgiving God. The other setting is, however, a more traditional hymn on forgiveness, focusing though on ultimate justice in that day 'when keeping score of every debt will end at last.' Similarly, in the hymns based on the last phrase of the prayer, the poet focuses the first hymn ('Any Kingdom We Have') on the sinner and the second ('God of the King upon a Cross') on the Redeemer. The composer has further emphasized the contrasts in the settings through his music. Numbers 5 and 9 are unison tunes and more folk-like. Nubmers 6 and 10 are majestic traditional hymns (no. 6, the only one in a four-part setting).
The composer, Carson P. Cooman, is one new to this writer, but he is widely published with over 300 commissioned and published works. Judging only from his work here, he is a well-trained and thoughtful church musician, for he has written excellent tunes and harmonies for Richard Leach's texts. As alluded to above, his music for the collection is in a variety of styles. The melodies and harmonies have a natural flow that will make them easy to learn, but are in no way common or cliché. Cooman is an organist and some of the wide stretches in left-hand harmonies and some of the voicings were obviously conceived for that instrument, but all his music is easily adaptable to the piano as well.
Selah's production of the collection is a model of what we in The Hymn Society have come to expect for new hymn collections: the hymn printed as poetry on one page; the hymn text presented with music as it might appear in a hymnal; and a full complement of indexes.
In conclusion, this is an excellent collection by two masters of their craft. It could be presented in its entirety as a hymn festival, but all of the hymns can easily find a variety of uses separately as well. For example, Leach's closing 'bookend' hymn, 'Let It Be As We Have Prayer' (based on the 'Amen'), wouuld make a great general benediction for choir or congregation." --The Hymn, October 2004
Pray Then Like This is a useful new collection of 11 hymns, each based upon a phrase or section of the Lord's Prayer. This prayer is so familiar--and so deep and rich when reflected upon. Here is the result of one poet's reflection and composer Carson Cooman's settings of those texts.
Includes the hymns "A Day Will Come," "Any Kingdom We Have," "Deliver Us from Evil," "God of the King upon a Cross," "How Far Away Is Heaven," "Let It Be As We Have Prayed," "May Your Name Be Hallowed," "The Hand That Jesus Closes Round," "We Will Pray As Jesus Taught," "What Do You See?" and "When Our Daily Fare."
I wrote all but one of these hymns in the summer and fall of 2001. My idea was to build a hymn upon each phrase or small section of the Lord's Prayer. Each hymn can be read, appreciated and sung apart from the others. The eleven also form a cycle or suite, connected by recurring themes and scripture allusions as well as by the prayer itself.
These hymns can be used in a wide variety of ways: any one of them sung as the season or theme or scripture reading of the day warrants; the cycle sung through one at a time, week by week or month by month; a selection from them, or the whole cycle, taken as the basis for a festival service. Individuals or small groups may read or sing them devotionally.
My thanks to Carson Cooman, who shared my vision of this cycle as pieces that could stand together or alone. He has provided eleven fine settings, and I am very pleased that we are able to offer this complete work of my texts and his music.
--Richard Leach, Torrington, Connecticut, Advent, 2001
Writing a cycle of hymns calls for, I feel, a slightly different approach from the isolation in which an individual hymn (as a "miniature art form," to borrow a term from Al Fedak) might often be conceived. The hymn settings in this collection were all conceived and written with the awareness that each was part of a larger set. Like the texts on which they are based, they are thus interconnected-with certain harmonies, gestures, or melodic contours shared between various ones. However, each hymn is still intended to be a complete entity on its own, so that they might be sung or used in any possible context.
I wish to thank especially Sandra Gay without whose encouragement none of my hymns would exist. Thanks also to Richard Leach for his always inspiring texts, which make composition a joy.
--Carson P. Cooman, Rochester, New York, Epiphany 2002
Notes on the Hymns
These notes are not a prerequisite to understanding and enjoying this work! Those who prefer to read them later, or not at all, are more than welcome to do so.
"And in praying," says Jesus, "do not heap up empty phrases. for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father." "We Will Pray as Jesus Taught," responds to these words, which introduce the Lord's Prayer in Matthew (6:79). A bookend to the cycle proper, this opening hymn addresses God, naming several ways God knows us. Stanzas two and three allude to the parable of the Prodigal Son, which is the basis of "How Far Away is Heaven," and is hinted at by some of the other hymns. The last stanza introduces a second motif of the cycle, God's word in Revelation 21:5: "Behold, I make all things new."
"How Far Away Is Heaven" uses the Prodigal Son story (which has also been called the story of the Waiting Father), to tell of heaven's remoteness and nearness.
"Hallowed be thy name"--biblical scholars tell us this is not an appendage to "Our Father, who art in heaven." It is one of three petitions that earth become like heaven: "Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done-on earth." "May Your Name Be Hallowed" comes from this insight.
A passage in Walter Brueggemann's Finally Comes the Poet deals with the consequences of what we eat, and who feeds us. Back in the book of Daniel, Israelites are in exile in Babylon. Daniel and three friends are told they will eat the same rich food that the king eats. It's part of their training to be servants of the king, functionaries of the empire. When they have come to like what the king likes, they will do what the king wants. But Daniel and his friends refuse the king's food; they stick with kosher vegetables (and are healthier for it). "When Our Daily Fare" asks God for the daily bread that is an alternative to the food that leads to servitude, and to several other worldly diets as well.
"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" has two hymns. "The Hand That Closes Round a Stone" pictures a hand holding a stone to throw at someone hated. When a friend extends a hand in greeting or giving, the hand that should be offered in return is clenched round that stone. The second stanza suggests that hearts can clutch at sins people commit, as hands can close on stones. The Prodigal Son story gives an example-when the heart of the elder brother is clenched round his brother's sins, he cannot accept the party his father is giving. "A Day Will Come" begins to imagine the luxury of keeping no score of sins at all.
" 'What Do You See?' the Serpent Said," contrasts Eve in the garden with Jesus in the wilderness. "Deliver Us From Evil" ranges from Exodus to the gospels, and prays that we deliver others from evil, as well as being delivered ourselves.
"Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever" also has two hymns. In "Any Kingdom We Have" we sing of ourselves as well as of God, of the kingdoms, powers and glories we have only for a while, but God has forever. Touching on themes and phrases from previous hymns, "God of the King Upon a Cross" closes the body of the cycle. It praises God whose kingdom and power we see clearly in Jesus crucified and risen, whose glory will be fully revealed in a new creation.
"Let It Be As We Have Prayed" is the second bookend, based on the words of Paul (2 Corinthians 1:19-20): "Jesus Christ. . . was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God."
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